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Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto Bridge


Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto Bridge

View of the southeast side

Photo taken by Dave King on June 9, 2015


BH Photo #327936



Lightner began by building the two arched entryways. These were followed by a bridge surrounded by a lagoon, a ten column structure representing the ten commandments, and a monumental central shrine, containing mosaics of the seven sorrow's of Christ's mother. The bridge was intended to represent his personal crossing to faith. The ten-column structure was the centerpiece of the lagoon with each of the commandments inscribed on the base in mosaic. The huge central wall-shrine contained a niche holding a white marble statue of the Virgin Mary made from Carrara marble by the Italian sculptor Marcello Rebechini. The statue, now reinstalled on the site was originally installed in 1949 after the shrines’ dedication by Archbishop Beckman in 1941.

On his quest to build the shrine, Lightner travelled more than forty thousand miles throughout the United States and Mexico looking for building materials. He contacted suppliers around the world in search of more than three-hundred unusual varieties of stones used in creating the structures. Over twelve-hundred tons of stones were used, at a personal cost of exceeding forty-thousand dollars. The four structures still standing reveal Lightner's visionary sense of design, as well as providing a multitude of geological specimens, including coral from Hawaii, petrified wood, lapidolite, white quartz, blue azurite, and rose quartz from Colorado and the Black Hills of South Dakota. https://www.mtmercy.edu/grotto-history


Stone arch bridge over Pond on Walkway at Mount Mercy College
Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Iowa
Open to pedestrians only
Built 1929; Restoration 1980 & 2014
- William Lightner
Stone arch
Listed as a contributing resource to the Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto Historic District
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.00286, -91.65352   (decimal degrees)
42°00'10" N, 91°39'13" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/611508/4650971 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Cedar Rapids North
Inventory number
BH 67981 (Bridgehunter.com ID)


Arch (12,173)
Built 1929 (1,019)
Built during 1920s (9,957)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa (92)
Deck arch (11,410)
Iowa (6,530)
Linn County, Iowa (233)
NR-contributing (147)
Open to pedestrians (4,253)
Owned by college (77)
Stone arch (3,078)
William Lightner (1)

Update Log 

  • June 9, 2015: Added by Dave King


  • Dave King - DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • thegazette.com - Mount Mercy grotto makes National Register
  • mtmercy.edu - William Lightner's Our Mother of Sorrows Grotto Preservation and Restoration 2010-2014 (Pdf)